HSF, Corruption Watch apply to step in to Ipid court battle

In affidavit Francis Antonie says protection of directorate's independence is key

Helen Suzman Foundation, Corruption Watch apply to step in to Ipid court battle

Civil society organisations Corruption Watch and The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) have applied to be admitted as friends of the court (amicus curiae) in proceedings instituted by the executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Robert McBride, against Minister of Police Bheki Cele.

McBride has filed an urgent application asking the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to declare Cele's decision not to renew his appointment as IPID executive director as "unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid".

In an affidavit, HSF director Francis Antonie states that the foundation has an interest in the proceedings "owing to the fact that IPID is an indispensable body in the fight against, inter alia, corruption against organised crime".

Antonie says their submission will provide critical insight into why the decision to renew a term of office should not be taken by any "political actor".

"This is necessary to ensure adequate protection of the structural, operational and institutional independence of IPID against political, executive and other interference…

"The HSF's submissions will thus assist the court by demonstrating why granting the decision-making power to renew a term of office of the executive director of IPID to a political actor, including members of the executive or Parliamentary Portfolio Committees, unlawfully infringes the independence of the IPID."

Antonie also states that Cele seeks to place his office at the centre of the renewal process, and that simultaneously he seeks to distance himself from the importance of such a role.

In a curt letter dated January 24, Cele informed McBride that he had forwarded his decision not to renew McBride's contract, to Parliament for consideration.

But Corruption Watch argues that it is in support of the relief sought by McBride in which he asks the Portfolio Committee of Police to make a determination on the renewal of his term of office before his contract expires at the end of February this year.

The organisation submits that the decision and process on how a new appointment should be made cannot be left so late as to when the current incumbent's contract lapses.

"If the executive director's term of office lapses, Parliament would have created a vacancy through its own unlawful conduct by failing to exercise proper oversight over the appointment of a new ED. It is self-evident that this is not what the IPID Act envisages."

The organisation states that the creation of a vacancy cannot stem from improper oversight.

Meanwhile, in papers filed in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, Cele argues that McBride's application to fight for his job is premature and moot.

Cele also said: "IPID will not grind to a halt without him. An acting director will do just fine while the National Assembly and the portfolio committee decides whether to confirm or reject my preliminary decision."

Cele said if his decision was confirmed, the post would be advertised and that nothing was stopping McBride from applying.

He also added that if his preliminary decision was rejected, then McBride's term would be renewed, and he would still get his full five-year term.

Cele also denied that he had "prevented" the portfolio committee from making a decision on whether or not to renew McBride's term.

However, in his affidavit, McBride states: "In light of the minister's conduct and given that my term of office expires on 28 February 2019, I have been left with no option but to approach the court for urgent relief."

He said this was necessary to ensure that the portfolio committee was given the opportunity to consider and make a determination on whether his term of office should be renewed.

"The matter is unquestionably urgent," McBride said.

"It is critical that the portfolio committee decides the matter before 28 February 2019. If this does not occur then my term of office will lapse due to the minister's unlawful and unconstitutional conduct."